Wednesday, February 24, 2016

February 20, 2016 - Jones Gap Trail from US276 to Dargans Cascade and Toll Road Falls, South Carolina

Cindy and I have hiked a couple of times in DuPont since my last post, but the hikes were mostly just to get out and knock some more trails off her book list.  There really wasn't much photo-worthy, so I'm not adding them as blog posts.  This outing to Jones Gap State Park was different - it has waterfalls.  Below is some video I shot along the trail, then at three of the 4 waterfalls we saw along the Jones Gap Trail.

The Jones Gap Trail is listed at 5.3 miles and runs between the main entrance of Jones Gap State Park off of River Falls Rd. and US276 around Caesars Head State Park.  Cindy and I had recently hiked the section of the Jones Gap Trail from the visitor center up to Toll Road Falls, so today we wanted to hike from the US276 end down to Toll Road Falls.  This way I could add Dargans Cascade to the list of waterfalls I have been to.  Most of the online sources say the way to do this is to park at the Raven Cliff Falls parking area near Caesars Head and take the Tom Miller Trail down to the Jones Gap Trail and go from there.  However, the map shows the Jones Gap Trail coming all the way to 276 and that's where we wanted to start from.  I knew Brenda Wiley would know where this point was, so I messaged her and she gave me the scoop.  All that info can be found on this page of my web site.

We found the parking spot with no trouble and began the hike there. There was an old broken post with a house number and 'Do Not Block This Drive' sign and we didn't think anything of it until we passed a house on the right a short distance down the trail.  The electricity was on, but it looked like no one had been down this drive (the trail) in a while.  After the house, the trail narrowed to a foot path and continued following the Middle Saluda River down to a point where the trail crossed the river on a foot bridge. Once across, the Tom Miller Trail turns to the right and heads up to the other parking area I mentioned earlier.  Both of these trails are blazed blue which can be confusing if you aren't paying attention.  We continued down river to another crossing of the river - except that this log foot bridge didn't have a hand rail and was right at the top of a sliding cascade. 

Cindy crossing the log on the way back
unnamed cascade

I was using Thomas King's South Carolina waterfall book for reference and he has a picture of this cascade on the Dargans Cascade page.  I figured this was the upper waterfall, but found out later that this isn't Dargans Cascade - and apparently isn't named at all.  What a shame because it's a nice waterfall!

I had seen pictures of what other folks were calling Dargans Cascade and when that waterfall wasn't right below this one, I began to wonder.  We continued down the trail just a little farther and could see that waterfall down below.  The river dropped faster than the trail did, so we were now 75' or so above the waterfall.  A steep scramble trail heads down to the base, but don't take it.  We did, not knowing that if we had kept following the main trail a bit farther, it would cut back and head down to river level near the base of the waterfall - duh.  This is a really nice area with Dargans Cascade (the real one), and a very nice cascade just down river.  After we got back I did some more looking online and found this link where an old document called this waterfall Silver Steps - interesting!

Dargans Cascade
Cindy at the cascade below Dargans

cascade below Dargans

We spent quite a bit of time here, then continued down the trail towards Toll Road Falls. Along this section of trail we could see a big rock dome across the river and later found out that this is called El Lieutenant.  The base of it can be accessed from other trails in the park.  We also crossed several tributaries along the way and a couple of these need further investigating for hidden waterfalls.  We finally reached Toll Road Falls a little more than 3 miles from where we had started.  We took a nice break here, then headed back.  There's a 700' gain in elevation but it's not too bad spread over 3 miles.  With 2 vehicles, the entire Jones Gap Trail would be a very nice shuttle hike!

Toll Road Falls

No comments:

Post a Comment